The Church of Ireland and diverse views
Sir, – Patsy McGarry contends that I, among others, departed from the Church of Ireland view that abortion should not be dealt with in the Constitution by calling for a No vote (“Republic’s secularisation brings Protestant and Catholic churches closer”, Analysis, June 12th).
At no point did either Church of Ireland archbishop call for a No vote nor did either archbishop encourage anyone to vote in any particular direction. It is not the practice of the Church of Ireland to tell its members how to vote.
Regarding the assertion that “the change was prompted by Archbishop Jackson”, this is untrue and there are no grounds for such a belief.
The decision of General Synod 2012 in relation to marriage said nothing new in the Church of Ireland and was not a new doctrinal statement. It encouraged all members of the Church of Ireland to respect the discipleship of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender church members.
In relation to the phrase “surprise ambush by the Northerners” regarding Bill No. 7 Synodical Reform, this was a private member’s Bill proposed by a lay member of the General Synod from Northern Ireland and an ordained woman working in the Republic of Ireland. The Bill was introduced in the normal fashion and members had sight of it before General Synod met in May. This is the most recent discussion of synodical reform within the Church of Ireland and is ongoing. Such discussion is a normal part of the democratic engagement that characterises the organisation of the Church of Ireland as a synodical church.
The General Synod gathers together members of the Church of Ireland from east, west, north and south. All members have the freedom to hold views of their own and seek to persuade others. The General Synod is also a place where people share views strongly in an amicable manner.
Patsy McGarry also makes a sweeping generalisation about people from a “Northern background”.
In Northern Ireland, as elsewhere across the island of Ireland, there is a broad diversity of opinion and conviction.
His suggestion that “Its Northern membership is far more conservative, as are its Northern bishops, including those born in the North but now ministering in the Republic” is a huge oversimplification and deeply hurtful to all clergy, whether born in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, who hold a range of diverse opinions and to those to whom they minister, who also hold a range of diverse opinions. What unites them is their shared faith. – Yours, etc,
Dr MICHAEL JACKSON,
(Church of Ireland),
Patsy McGarry writes: On March 28th last in a joint statement on the referendum, Archbishop Jackson and Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke said: “unrestricted access to abortion in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, or indeed at any stage, is not an ethical position we can accept”.
This was widely understood as an intention to vote No in the referendum.